The Last Dance (⚽️ Edition)

At age 35, Lionel Messi will compete in his final FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Qatar in 2022 and could feature Argentina as the victor. With the exception of the FIFA World Cup, the all-time great has virtually won everything there is to win at the top level of world football. Messi has come under more scrutiny because of the prominent roles that Mario Kempes and, in particular, Diego Maradona, played in 1978 and 1986, respectively. He must, in the eyes of some, win the World Cup. In 2021, as the Albiceleste raised the Copa America, Messi finally exorcised the monkey off his back by winning his first senior international competition with Argentina.

The PSG forward openly displayed his emotions after experiencing his first taste of international success. However, just like so many other great players throughout history, the World Cup has eluded him. Could Messi have a chance to retire on top in 2022? Will he feel that he can no longer lead Argentina as he has done so frequently in the past? Will he leave the global stage empty-handed after failing once more? This is what we do know: the athlete himself has stated that Qatar 2022 will mark his final World Cup appearance. By the time the of the 2026 World Cup, the Argentine superstar will be 39 years old and very few players have taken part in a significant international competition at that age. Messi previously stated in March 2022 that he was only thinking about the near future and that his long-term goals were unknown.

Messi, who is regarded as one of the greatest athletes to have ever graced the sport, has yet to lift the illustrious trophy. The Paris Saint-Germain star will have one final opportunity to win the desired trophy in Qatar, when the competition gets underway on November 20th.

2006 Germany

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, in Argentina’s second Group C match against Serbia and Montenegro, at the FIFA World Cup Stadium in Hamburg, Lionel Messi scored his first goal in a football World Cup.

Lionel Messi made his World Cup debut against Serbia and Montenegro in the following match after watching his team defeat Ivory Coast 2–1 in their group opener from the bench. He came off the bench in the 75th minute.

Three minutes into his debut, Lionel Messi assisted Hernan Crespo for Argentina’s fourth goal of the game as they were already up 3–0. Messi added a goal in the 88th minute to complete the 6–0 thrashing after latching onto a pass from Carlos Tevez and beating the opposition goalkeeper at the near post.

In a 0–0 draw with the Netherlands, Lionel Messi received his first FIFA World Cup start from Argentina head coach Jose Pekerman. In the round of 16, Argentina defeated Mexico 2–1 with Messi on the bench. However, he was not used as a substitute when Germany defeated Argentina on penalties to advance to the semifinals.

Messi Celebrating his first World Cup goal at Germany, 2006

2010 South Africa

Unlike the 2006 World Cup, where he entered as a young teenager on the rise, Lionel Messi entered the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa with a heavy burden of expectation.

Following his achievements with Barcelona and leading Argentina to the Olympic gold medal in Beijing 2008, Leo Messi had, after all, set the bar high. The Argentine maestro’s story didn’t quite turn out as expected, though.

Argentina once more advanced to the quarterfinals before Germany eliminated them, but Messi failed to score in any of his five games despite making significant contributions to the team throughout. His sole goal-related contribution came in the round of 16 against Mexico, when Argentina defeated Mexico 3–1, thanks to an assist to Carlos Tevez.

Messi and Maradona

2014 Brazil

By the time the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil arrived, Lionel Messi still had a lot to prove after the 2010 campaign. This time, the tiny maestro grabbed the competition by the collar.

With four goals and one assist in seven games, Lionel Messi nearly single-handedly carried Argentina to the championship game, but Messi and company ultimately lost when Germany defeated them 1–0 in the championship game.

In a 3–2 victory over Nigeria in a group game, Lionel Messi scored twice. Only once in his career he has scored two goals in a single FIFA World Cup game. Lionel Messi was not only his team’s leading scorer in the 2014 World Cup, but he also received the Golden Ball award and was named the tournament’s best player.

Messi receiving second place medal in 2014 World Cup, Brazil

2018 Russia

Argentina was eliminated by eventual champions France in the round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia. In an otherwise poor campaign for the South Americans, Lionel Messi was the star performer for Argentina despite missing a possible game-winning penalty against Iceland in Argentina’s opening match.

Messi’s lone goal during the competition came against Nigeria in the last group encounter, setting the tone for a 2–1 victory. For both teams, the match was essentially a playoff game to advance to the knockout rounds. It’s significant to note that Messi, with his goal against Nigeria in the 2018 tournament, became the only player in history to score in the FIFA World Cup while still in his teens, twenties, and thirties.

Messi was instrumental in preserving Argentina’s hopes throughout their 4–3 loss to France in the semifinal match, contributing to two of their three goals.At the FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi has never scored in a knockout game. His six goals were all scored in group games.

Messi against Nigeria, 2018 World Cup

Let’s cut to the chase, is Messi significantly worse when it comes to World Cup Tournaments? From a statistical point of view, NO. Despite that Messi scores 0.26 goals/cap and assists 0.06 goals/cap less in World Cup matches, than rest International matches, this difference is not statistically significant, meaning that this difference could be random.

Messi has achieved pretty much everything in his entire career, he has made 994 appearances having scored 785 goals and assisted 383 ! It is pretty unfair to be judged by 19 matches, 3 of them at the age of 19. Instead of arguing about his achievements with Argentina shirt we should better relish the fact that we have one more chance to watch him play at World Cup level, and this will be the last one. The last dance of one of the greatest of all time to ever played the sport.

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